At My Age I Shouldn't Have to Prove Anything to Anyone

All Pop wants is to cross the border for a few hours to visit a relative. You wouldn't think that's asking too much. But it is.
 
A distant cousin lives in a St Catherine nursing home, just across the Canadian border. We run up to visit her once a year or so – my brother, Pop, and myself. A driver's license and birth certificate has always sufficed for crossing the border. (or rather, for return crossing, back into the U.S.) But, as of last June, only an “enhanced” license will do – that or a passport. With only minor fuss, my brother and I obtained ours, but no such luck for Pop. State (and perhaps Federal) clerks looked askance at his out-of-state birth certificate from the 1920's – it's old and crumbly – you have to handle it as if it were an ancient Bible manuscript. And....is it a certificate or just a 'notice'? And....does it have a raised seal or is it just a flat one? Go get another one, they tell him.
 
But record-keeping in New Jersey wasn't so hot 90 years ago, and the department has changed hands or moved any number of times since. They don't seem able to come up with anything to readily satisfy New York. Yes, for a certain fee and substantial inconvenience, if Pop can dig up some old coot whose been around forever, who knows him from long ago, and who can testify that, yes – Pop is indeed a person, he was born here, he is a citizen, and if you can get that person to testify to that effect before a notary, then the wheels of progress can slowly move ahead once more. But the old coots are dead, or far away and long forgotten. The guys Pop hangs with now, bowling and golfing buddies, for the most part, don't go back that far. They can testify he throws a good strike ball, but not much else.
 
Pop's been on the phone with a series of persons, but he gets frustrated with the layers of bureaucracy he must plow through, and he gives them a piece of his mind. (no doubt ringing alarm bells everywhere) “I've had a driver's license for 70 years,” he grouses. “I fought in the world war. At my age, I shouldn't have to prove anything to anyone.”

'Why don't you take charge yourself, Sheepandgoats?' one might ask. 'Why don't you help him out?' Yeah, well, maybe that will happen. But it's not so easy as it sounds, for Pop is quite competent. He takes pride in being self-sufficient, and doesn't like to be helped....might not accepting help imply he is helpless? Besides, would I do any better? I've had my own struggles with (local) bureaucracy, untangling an ancient web regarding property rights, which also entailed tracking down old coots who could remember how things used to be, parading them to the bank notary public, hiring a lawyer (who opined that submitted documents had only to “weigh enough”) and persuading certain other interested parties that there was nothing more to be done till the gods of real estate had spoken.
 
Moreover, I've had my own border trouble. It happened some months after 911, as Mrs Sheepandgoats and I were driving home from Quebec City. Rounding the final bend on Rt 137, a long long line at the NY-Canadian border came into view - endless cars waiting for customs. 'Rats!' muttered I to my wife, and then 'well, as long as I have to sit here, I'll read the newsmagazine in the car trunk.' But as I opened the trunk I noticed all eyes in the control booths ahead were upon me. 'Sheepandgoats, you idiot!' Now they think I'm hiding drugs – they'll tear the car apart!

So I waited my forty five minutes, and when it came my turn, the first words from the officer's mouth were: “what were you doing in your trunk?” Getting something to read, I said, adding I instantly knew it was a mistake and they'd all be thinking I was hiding drugs. “Drugs, hell!” the fellow snapped back. “One wrong move and you would have been shot!” That's how it was after 911. They were edgy there at the border, cautious, supposing I might emerge from the trunk with a machine gun.

Now, we don't complain, mind you. Well....Pop does a little...it's more evidence that 'the world has gone to hell in a handbasket,' he grumbles. But I know it's all a consequence of terror and the “war on terror.” People die or are maimed all the time through terror, so it's hardly sporting to gripe over a just a bit of inconvenience, even though we live in America, are all spoiled, and have long taken our “rights” for granted. One must keep things in perspective. Still, when Tom Whitepebble was a boy in Niagara Falls, NY, he'd routinely walk across the bridge to Canada and back, after a day of fun at the falls, and nobody asked him anything. Nobody had to see any papers at all.
 
I write this just after police have arrested some fellow who'd hoped to blow up Times-Square with a car bomb. It might have been a much bigger story, complete with dead bodies and burning buildings – T-S is always mobbed with people - had not his crude bomb fizzled. Such events are routine in the world but (so far) relatively rare in the U.S. Who of my generation would ever have imagined it would come to this, that killing civilians indiscriminately would come into vogue, and even strapping on bombs and delighting to die if only you can take out a dozen or two with you. Tell me....you really don't think it's not evidence that “in the last days” people will be “fierce,” and without “natural affection?”  (2 Tim 3:3)  And did the July Watchtower really say that the recent upsurge in graphic movie, TV, game and media violence might be a satanic ploy, stoking people up for fratricidal warfare?

It steadily escalates. In Russia, “two female suicide bombers killed at least 38 people on packed Moscow metro trains on Monday, stirring fears of a broader campaign in Russia's heartland by Islamists from the North Caucasus,” says the March 29th Washington Post. They call these female bombers “black widows,” and they've struck many times, with great loss of life. They've generally lost all their menfolk to war and all their womenfolk have been raped. They're pretty much crazed, without any social net to fall back into, and it's a sinch to recruit them for suicide missions. The Post names a certain Chechen “warlord” who, a decade ago, “pioneered” the use of women to strike civilian targets. And why? Reprisals for the 1940s transportation of Chechens to Central Asia, with enormous loss of life, by dictator Josef Stalin. [70 years ago!] In recent decades, Islamist militants have joined the fray, giving it new import.

Now, horrible as such grievances are, in past decades people weathered equal atrocities without suffering destruction of their natural affection for humankind. It often broke them, it often broke faith in God, it often left them with hatred for the perpetrators, but not for humankind in general. Jews and other emerged from WWII concentration camps, for example, without dedicating their future lives to revenge, or at least revenge against non-involved persons. A century before that, blacks in this country similarly emerged from brutalizing slavery without goals of hatred and vengeance to all. But times are different today. People are surrounded by hate, and when they escape from one hate-filled situation, they simply enter another one. There is no respite. There is no consolation. It ought to be quite clear that this world produces and promises to produce no end of persons like the Chechen black widows, so increasing violence seems absolutely assured, until God brings about an end to the entire system of things, a forerunner to ushering in his own kingdom.

Under such circumstances, one doesn't gripe about inconveniences at the border. It's more or less to be expected.

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Tom Irregardless and Me                No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

So There was this Lutheran Evangelical, and he Approaches this Rabbi

so as to SAVE him. Only, he doesn't know he's wearing a big "kick me" sign on his behind. No sooner does he finish his pitch and the rabbi does kick him. Hard! HA!!

[Okay, okay, Tom Sheepandgoats, don't gloat. Stop it!. The rabbi doesn't like you any more than him, most likely. Maybe he'll try to kick you, too. Well....maybe, but at least I have one saving grace. I'm using a decent Bible translation.]

Dear Rabbi [Tovia Singer, who runs Outreach Judaism, and responds to issues raised by "missionaries, cults, and Jew for Jesus."]:

".......I admire your commitment to your faith." [Roll eyes. Does he also admire the Pope's committment to his faith. Sheesh! When you're writing a someone like the rabbi, you don't lead off with patronizing twaddle about admiration. If you truly admire him, the tone of your letter will show it.]

Brackets mine, by the way.

yet I am perplexed as to why you so assuredly reject Jesus Christ as your messiah. [Not the Messiah, but your Messiah. What, is he trying to get this fellow mad? Not that I disagree with the "your," necessarily, but you have to know your audience. Even Jesus' disciples referred to him as the Messiah. (John 1:41) Do these modern day evangelicals simply love him more than the original twelve?]

He came not only for the gentiles, but for the Jews as well. He was born to a Jewish mother and came to the Jewish people. [Perhaps the rabbi has never heard this.]

[Wait a minute....haven't church Christians treated Jews abominably through the centuries? Better defuse that one. Shouldn't be a problem:]

"I know that the Jews have been maligned and persecuted by so-called Christians. This has certainly left a bad taste in the mouths of the Jewish people against Christ; but certainly you must know, rabbi, that these were not real Christians, for a believer in Christ must love the Jew, for his Savior is a Jew....The true Christian loves the Jewish people." [There! Done! Easy as Pie! Hundreds of years of persecution out of the way! Now, on to business:]

"You surely have read the 22nd Psalm which most clearly speaks of our Lord’s crucifixion. Read verse 16. [Do it, rabbi. NOW!] It states, “Dogs have compassed me; the assembly of the wicked has enclosed me; they pierced my hands and my feet.” Of whom does the prophet speak other than our Lord? This Old Testament prophecy could only be foretelling Jesus’ unique death on the cross. What greater proof is needed that Jesus died for the sins of mankind than this chapter which was written a thousand years before Jesus walked this earth?"

I'll concede I'm being somewhat hard on this Lutheran fellow. He's certainly sincere enough But these guys come after us all the time, too, set to save us. Positively cooing love, until you refute them, and then you're likely to catch a hellfire backhand. Well....if you're going to pull stuff like this on the rabbi (and us), you'd better have your ducks lined up. As it turns out, this fellow's ducks are waddling all over the place, and the rabbi calls him on it.

His verse is fraudulent translating, the rabbi replies. It does not read in Hebrew "they pierced my hands and my feet." It reads "like a lion, they are at my hands and my feet." The Hebrew word is kaari. It means "like a lion." It does not mean "pierced." Furthermore, this is no accident of translating, the rabbi goes on to assert. It is deliberate. Other places in the Old Testament, such as Isaiah 38:13, the Hebrew work kaari is translated "like a lion," as it should be. Only at Psalm 22:16 (some translations have it vs 17) is it "pierced." a word that, in this setting, just sounds so much better for religionist church translators! Never mind that there actually are Hebrew words that mean pierced - words that are not used in the verse. No, we'll just change the word kaari so as to support an image we like!

Well.....honest mistake, reply some churchy types that know of the switch. You see, they explain, those early church translators mistook kaari for kaaru.....it's only one letter off, and kaaru means "pierced." They probably suppose Jesus maneuvered matters this way. The only trouble, says the rabbi.....is that there is no kaaru. No such word. Or, at least, not until those religionists coined it to justify their mistranslation.

Now, I didn't know any of this. I checked various translations, some in my own library and some on the internet. The website BibleGateway.com has a feature by which one may compare different translations. I refer to it a lot. Out of the 18 English translations listed, none have "like a lion" at vs 16. They all say "pierced" or (in two cases) phrases that mean pierced.

StudyLight.org makes 37 complete English translations (there is some overlap with BibleGateway) available for comparison. Only four say "like a lion." The Easy to Read Version, trying to please everybody, I guess, uses both: Like a lion, {they have pierced} my hands and my feet." [are lions known to pierce hands and feet?]

Four translations out of fifty! So I look up the verse in the New World Translation, the one used by Jehovah's Witnesses:

For dogs have surrounded me; The assembly of evildoers themselves have enclosed me. Like a lion [they are at] my hands and my feet.

The NWT gets it right, one of only a handful of translations to do so! Since the other accurate translations are all somewhat obscure - not well known - for all practical purposes, the NWT is the only accurate one available. Moreover, in translating the word kaari accurately, the NWT works "against" its translators own interests, since we also believe the Christ is foretold in various psalms, including the 22nd. We'd love it to say "pierced," too. but it doesn't. No fair stacking the deck. Accuracy in translating comes first. The Foreword of the New World Translation says, in part: The translators of this work, who fear and love the Divine Author of the Holy Scriptures, feel toward Him a special responsibility to transmit his thoughts and declarations as accurately as possible. They ought to cite Ps 22:16 as a case in point, for here they ignore a rendering they must instinctively agree with doctrinally, because the original Hebrew word does not allow it!

I've seen how born-again Bibles alter the New Testament, trying to sneak their Trinity doctrine in, but I've not seen it before with the Old Testament. Moreover, I am so sick and tired of these know-nothings, buttressed only by the opinions of ones who think like them, shouting that the NWT is a shoddy translation. And maligning it's authors, making much of the fact they haven't gone to their seminaries, in striking similarity to how religious leaders of Jesus' day sneered at the first century Christians (and even Jesus himself):

Now when they beheld the outspokenness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were men unlettered and ordinary, they got to wondering. And they began to recognize about them that they used to be with Jesus.  (Acts 4:13)

Therefore the Jews fell to wondering, saying: “How does this man have a knowledge of letters, when he has not studied at the schools?  (John 7:15)

There was some trial somewhere, decades ago...you see it all over the internet.... in which Fred Franz is asked to translate an English phrase into Hebrew and he replies "I won't attempt to do that." This means, say his detractors, that he doesn't know Hebrew at all, and yet he chaired the NWT translating committee! Does he even know Pig Latin? But all sneering aside, the New World Translation got Ps 22:16 right, when virtually nobody else did. Everyone else repeats uncritically (they surely by now have had opportunity to correct matters) the faulty King James rendering! Rather, they vigorously defend it. Possibly, one might (gingerly) allow that the verse, in Hebrew, is homonymic. Alas, such wordplay, along with poetic devices as alliteration, rhyme, onomatopoeia, and so forth, is not translatable. Even if you were to attempt it, you still need a good dose of "translator privilege" to derive pierced. Not to be lost sight of is the fact that this verse is not cited as messianic in the New Testament although several other Ps 22 verses are. In the end, responsible translating demands you translate only what is actually there. (in a footnote, the NWT Large Print with References includes two alternate readings: Biting like a lion my hand and my feet (Targum) and They bored (dug through) my hands and my feet. (Septuagint, Vulgate))

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By the way, the rabbi's not buying into this "love the Jews" slogan, either [his word]. Doesn't this Lutheran character know of Luther's reputation? "Among all the church fathers and reformers, there was no mouth more vile, no lips that uttered more vulgar curses against the children of Israel than this founder of the Reformation whom you apparently revere. Even the anti-Semitism of the New Testament and the church fathers pales in comparison to the invectives launched by Luther’s impious tongue during his lifetime.....Have you not read his odious volume entitled 'Of the Jews and Their Lies'?"

"Although evangelicals repeatedly declare that true believing Christians love the Jewish people, the annals of history clearly do not support this slogan. With few exceptions, the tormentors of the Jewish people emerged out of the fundamentalist genre of Christianity. Remarkably, denominations that evangelical Christians regard as heretical, such as Mormonism or the Jehovah’s Witnesses, do not have a strong history of anti-Semitism."

[It's true. Didn't I go to bat for Dov Hikind when everyone else wanted his head on a platter?]

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And while we're at it, the rabbi also takes a swipe at Trinitarianism, which he wrongly equates with Christianity. Psalm 22 opens with "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" If these words are to be attributed to a Trinitarian Jesus on the cross, asks the rabbi, (Matt 27:46) can it really be that God has forsaken himself? This is the sort of nonsense you have to buy into repeatedly when you accept the Trinity doctrine. It's nonsense that clears up instantly once you appreciate that Jesus and his Father are two separate beings, just like any other son and father we can imagine. Indeed, that's why the Bible uses that bit of personification - in order to highlight the intense closeness and absolute harmony existing between them, while all the time making clear they are separate beings.

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Governing the Modern Day Congregation

Like Plato's philosopher kings, the "apostles and older men" in Jerusalem set policy for the first century congregation. They determined how scripture applied for the rapidly growing Christian faith, much as modern govenments apply principles contained within national constitutions. If they did not do so, constitutions would quickly become inapplicable, lost among new developments not explicitly spelled out. They'd become relics for debate, and nothing else. (Some people would like it that way.) But the Bible was not to suffer the same fate. It was to be applied to changing times by a governing agency.
 
Traveling ministers carried decisions of that early governing body to the ever-increasing congregations, which within decades had spread throughout the Mediterranean world. Acts 16:4-5 reports:
 
Now as they traveled on through the cities they would deliver to those there for observance the decrees that had been decided upon by the apostles and older men who were in Jerusalem. Therefore, indeed, the congregations continued to be made firm in the faith and to increase in number from day to day.

Alas, for those who suppose Christianity ought to be based upon Western democracy! It wasn't guidelines being delivered. It wasn't suggestions. It wasn't proposals to be put to popular vote. It was decrees which were to be observed.
 
It's not just the New World Translation. Nearly all English translations use the terms "decrees" or "decisions." The New International Version calls them "decisions for the people to obey." Of the few variations, only the Message translation waters the phrase down to "simple guidelines which turned out to be most helpful." But the Amplified Bible uses "regulations," Moffatts Bible says "resolutions," the Good News Bible offers up "rules."
 
Isn't this what one would expect? If God's ways are really higher than our ways, as Isa 55:9 states, and people become Christian converts precisely for that reason, does anyone truly think God's ways would be determined by majority vote? If that's the case, who needs God? Unless you want scripture to be no more than fodder for debate. And as already observed, that's exactly what many folks want; the more learned they are and thereby fond of their own opinions, the more they want it. That way no one has to really pay any attention to it, even if it's their own that opinion prevails. It's just academic hot air. No, there has to be a governing agency. God saw to that in the first century. The apostles and older men governed from Jerusalem as a God-ordained arrangement. They weren't ambitious men seizing power. They were Christians with the most experience, men who had introduced the faith to others, and they saw to their own succession.
 
Is this arrangement to be extended into the present? Jehovah's Witnesses say yes. It's what they glean from consideration of Matt 24:45-47: Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so. Truly I say to you, He will appoint him over all his belongings.  

At first glance, one might wonder if these verses can really refer to governance for the modern-day Christian congregations. I've had someone try to tell me the verses are no more than a nice little story with the moral to always do your best. But consider that the verses are embedded in Matthew 24-25, two Bible chapters filled with prophesies and parables about Christ's return. Matt 24:3 leads with the question posed by Jesus' disciples: "what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?" Matthew 25 consists of three parables in which the Master returns after a long absence and settles accounts with his slaves....what have they been up to while he was gone? Some have been diligent. Some negligent. Some have kept alert. Some have fallen asleep.  Some have done well by his "brothers." Some have ignored them. As always, Jesus speaks in illustrations, largely so as to throw off people whose interest in spiritual things is only superficial. (see Matt: 13:10-15)
 
From time to time through the years, various persons have claimed to be "the faithful and discreet slave," presuming that whatever they have to say constitutes "food at the proper time" for the "domestics." However, Christ departed in 33CE - wouldn't he have made his appointments before leaving?. And he arrived....Jehovah's Witnesses (alone) are on record stating his invisible presence as reigning heavenly King began in 1914 (another claim which, at first glance, seems far-fetched, but which is substantiated with reasonings reproduced here and here and here.) Therefore, the faithful and discreet slave must be, not an individual, but a group, or class, of individuals. A small remnant of Christ's followers recognized through Bible study that the Master's presence would commence in 1914. They gave the matter wide publicity well beforehand. ‘Look out for 1914!’ has been the cry of the hundreds of traveling evangelists who, representing this strange creed [today known as Jehovah's Witnesses], have gone up and down the country enunciating the doctrine that ‘the Kingdom of God is at hand.’ wrote the New York World newspaper on August 30, 1914. Early Watchtower President C.T. Russell wrote weekly sermons which were published, all told, by more than 4000 newspapers. The early Witnesses were off on some applications, but they were surely right on enough of them so as to be uniquely recognizable.
 
Can that small anointed remnant not be "the faithful and discreet slave", found by the "master on arriving" to be giving "food at the proper time?" The passage points out that this "slave" is thereby appointed over all his [the Master's] belongings. Thus, today, a governing body, drawn from members of this anointed class, oversees kingdom interests on earth. As closely as possible, it models itself after the pattern set by that first century governing body. In this way, congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses are governed. They thereby maintain unity. They actually stand for something, and don't just reflect cultural norms of the day slightly modified by a God smiley face.
 
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Appendix: Acts chapter 15 (reproduced below) offers a specific example of how Christians were governed in the first century. It provides a template which the governing body uses in directing Christians today. Note the dispute (regarding circumcision), and the agreed upon channel of redress. Note how, prior to reaching a decision, scriptures are considered, both historical and prophetic. Witnesses are heard, who testify to the role holy spirit is playing....what God is then doing among the congregations. The resulting decision is put into writing and sent to all the congregations. Delivery must have taken some time, given means of travel back then.
 
From Acts chapter 15:
 
And certain men came down from Judea and began to teach the [newly converted Gentile] brothers: “Unless you get circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” But when there had occurred no little dissension and disputing by Paul and Barnabas with them, they arranged for Paul and Barnabas and some others of them to go up to the apostles and older men in Jerusalem regarding this dispute.  Accordingly, after being conducted partway by the congregation, these men continued on their way through both Phoenicia and Samaria, relating in detail the conversion of people of the nations, and they were causing great joy to all the brothers. On arriving in Jerusalem they were kindly received by the congregation and the apostles and the older men, and they recounted the many things God had done by means of them. Yet, some of those of the sect of the Pharisees that had believed rose up from their seats and said: “It is necessary to circumcise them and charge them to observe the law of Moses.”
 
 And the apostles and the older men gathered together to see about this affair. Now when much disputing had taken place, Peter rose and said to them: “Men, brothers, you well know that from early days God made the choice among you that through my mouth people of the nations should hear the word of the good news and believe; and God, who knows the heart, bore witness by giving them the holy spirit, just as he did to us also. And he made no distinction at all between us and them, but purified their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you making a test of God by imposing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our forefathers nor we were capable of bearing? On the contrary, we trust to get saved through the undeserved kindness of the Lord Jesus in the same way as those people also.”
 

At that the entire multitude became silent, and they began to listen to Barnabas and Paul relate the many signs and portents that God did through them among the nations. After they quit speaking, James answered, saying: “Men, brothers, hear me. Symeon has related thoroughly how God for the first time turned his attention to the nations to take out of them a people for his name. And with this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written, ‘After these things I shall return and rebuild the booth of David that is fallen down; and I shall rebuild its ruins and erect it again, in order that those who remain of the men may earnestly seek Jehovah, together with people of all the nations, people who are called by my name, says Jehovah, who is doing these things, known from of old.’ Hence my decision is not to trouble those from the nations who are turning to God, but to write them to abstain from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. For from ancient times Moses has had in city after city those who preach him, because he is read aloud in the synagogues on every sabbath.”


Then the apostles and the older men together with the whole congregation favored sending chosen men from among them to Antioch along with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was called Barsabbas and Silas, leading men among the brothers; and by their hand they wrote:
 

“The apostles and the older men, brothers, to those brothers in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the nations: Greetings! Since we have heard that some from among us have caused you trouble with speeches, trying to subvert your souls, although we did not give them any instructions, we have come to a unanimous accord and have favored choosing men to send to together with our loved ones, Barnabas and Paul, men that have delivered up their souls for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are therefore dispatching Judas and Silas, that they also may report the same things by word. For the holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things, to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication. If you carefully keep yourselves from these things, you will prosper. Good health to you!”
 

Accordingly, when these men were let go, they went down to Antioch, and they gathered the multitude together and handed them the letter. After reading it, they rejoiced over the encouragement. And Judas and Silas, since they themselves were also prophets, encouraged the brothers with many a discourse and strengthened them. So, when they had passed some time, they were let go in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them out. 

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The new policy wasn't at once accepted by all, which in itself offers a template for modern-day similar situations. Jewish converts, in particular, had taken circumcision as a rite for generations. But now it was to be simply a personal choice, not an obligation to be imposed upon new believers. Long after the governing body supposedly settled the matter (49CE), its representatives were reasoning with those who opposed it, becoming more forceful with the passage of time:
 
(circa 51CE - 2 years later): For such freedom Christ set us free. Therefore stand fast, and do not let yourselves be confined again in a yoke of slavery. See! I, Paul, am telling you that if you become circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Moreover, I bear witness again to every man getting circumcised that he is under obligation to perform the whole Law.  (Gal 5:1-3)
 

(55CE - 6 years later): Was any man called circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Has any man been called in uncircumcision? Let him not get circumcised. Circumcision does not mean a thing, and uncircumcision means not a thing, but observance of God’s commandments [does]. (1 Cor 7:18-20)
 
(circa 61CE - 12 years later): Look out for the dogs, look out for the workers of injury, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are those with the real circumcision, who are rendering sacred service by God’s spirit and have our boasting in Christ Jesus and do not have our confidence in the flesh.   (Phil 3:2-3)
 
(circa 63CE - 14 years later): For there are many unruly men, profitless talkers, and deceivers of the mind, especially those men who adhere to the circumcision. It is necessary to shut the mouths of these, as these very men keep on subverting entire households by teaching things they ought not for the sake of dishonest gain. (Tit 1:10-11)
 
Did such resisters eventually find themselves removed from the congregation? It seems likely, in view of such directives as:
 
As for a man that promotes a sect, reject him after a first and a second admonition; knowing that such a man has been turned out of the way and is sinning, he being self-condemned. (Tit 3:10-11)
 
So it is in the modern-day congregation. Not everyone agrees with everything. But they strive to come into agreement, rather than cultivate divisions, having bought into the way of thinking that "God's ways are higher than man's ways," including his ways of providing organization. They subscribe to the wisdom from above (tell me if this isn't different from the wisdom of today): ...the wisdom from above is first of all chaste, then peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey....(Jas 3:17)

Occasionally individuals decide they can no longer acquiesce to this type of arrangement. Should they get to that point, they leave. It's the only reasonable course. It's really the only viable course. As in real life, you can't grab hold of the wheel. You get tossed off the bus should you try that.

 

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Tom Irregardless and Me           No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Epigenetics and Darwin's Update

"The potential is staggering," gushes Time Magazine (Jan 6, 2010) over the benefits epigenetics might bring humanity.  "For decades, we have stumbled around massive Darwinian roadblocks. DNA, we thought, was an ironclad code that we and our children and their children had to live by. Now we can imagine a world in which we can tinker with DNA, bend it to our will."
 
Yes, they can imagine it, but as ought to be apparent to anyone grounded in reality, it won't work that way. Epigenetics will not be our salvation. However, it just might give insight into today's worsening conditions.
 
Who has not entertained the suspicion that today's folk just aren't made of the same stuff as previous generations...that those old-timers were just plain tougher than we are? Tom Oxgoad, the Bethelite, made that point with me once. "Those old-timers must marvel at how frail we are," he said. "In the old days...say...back in the 1950's or before, one Bethelite might counsel another: 'you've got a rotten attitude and you'd better straighten up!'  And that fellow would straighten up, and he'd say 'thanks for the counsel!'" Or maybe he wouldn’t. Maybe he'd decide "this is not the life for me," and leave. But either way, he wouldn't melt into a puddle of mush, his fragile self-esteem dissolving, as we can so easily picture happening today. Does the newly explored field of epigenetics offer an explanation?
 
The upshot of epigenetics is that heredity works not just through Darwin's mutation and natural selection...a painstakingly slow process. We also pass along traits acquired via environment factors; furthermore, these changes can be dramatic and quick,  manifesting themselves in but a generation or two. Thus, Time says, a "long-standing deal" we've had with biology is now off the table, namely: "whatever choices we make during our lives might ruin our short-term memory or make us fat or hasten death, but they won't change our genes - our actual DNA. Which meant that when we had kids of our own, the genetic slate would be wiped clean."
 
No longer applies. Choices we make do change our genes, and our kids do not start with a slate wiped clean. The very idea is heresy to Darwin True Believers, but scientists are now quite sure of it. To put it more accurately, our genes do not physically change from generation to generation, but whether they are expressed or not changes. The epigenome sits just outside the genome and switches the various genes "on" or "off." It does so by smothering – masking gene portions meant to be “off” and leaving visible gene portions meant to be “on.” The illustration now in vogue is that of hardware (the genome) being manipulated by software (the epigenome). Hardware alteration via the Darwin heredity, as we all learned about in school, comes about slowly. But the new-found software changes happen quickly.
 
Furthermore, life-style and environment factors…..such as stress, such as smoking, such as gluttony, alters the epigenome, which in turn alters the genome, which in turn inflicts adverse results upon one’s children and grandchildren. Dr Lars Bygren studied a rural population of two centuries past, a physically isolated population that literally vacillated between feast and famine, depending upon the harvest. When the harvest was bountiful, youngsters gorged themselves. Their  grandchildren, Bygren discovered, had life expectancies reduced by as much as three decades!
 
In another study, published in 2006, Drs Bygren, Marcus Pembrey, and Jean Golding found the sons of those who began smoking before age 11 were at higher risk for obesity and various other health problems. Time Magazine summed it up: “you can change your epigenetics even when you make a dumb decision at 10 years old. If you start smoking then, you may have made not only a medical mistake but a catastrophic genetic mistake.” And to think I’ve been lectured before by atheists...capitalizing these very words....that, whereas I do what some god TELLS me to do based on a BELIEF, they act upon REASON based upon EVIDENCE. But in this case, as in so many others, you were far better off to quit smoking because God TOLD* you to, trusting he might be AWARE of EVIDENCE as yet UNDISCOVERED by humans.
 
*as inferred from 2 Cor 7:1
 
All this goes to show, BTW, that you need not lose your cookies when evolutionists rule creation absolutely out of the question. Nor should you feel you must wait for them to come on board. Opinions change fast. In 1996, Dr Pembrey, mentioned above, had a hard time getting published. Major scientific journals rejected his paper. Ten years later, it is “considered seminal in epigenetic theory.” Is that not a tidal change in scientific thought? For decades evolutionists carried on as if they knew all there was to be known - the essence of their subject was well-understood, and little remained but to mop up a few relatively insignificant details. With the discovery of epigenetics' role, if history is any guide, they will act as if now they know all there was to be known, save for a few odds and ends. Heaven help you if you choose a course of faith before it has been authorized by them. Yet the mapping of the human epigenome (already underway in Europe) will, when complete, "make the Human Genome project look like homework that 15th century kids did with an abacus," says Time. How immodest to have made grandiose, dogmatic claims, based upon a supposed thorough understanding of the genome, which now turns out to be but the tip of a submerged iceberg.
 
Look, don't think I'm anti-science. I'm not. Whenever scientists say they have discovered this or that I tend to accept it, but I do so tentatively, always with the caveat that these guys are frequently full of themselves, bursting with pride at human accomplishment, and intolerant of any layman who would question their theories, until they themselves revise them. Or - I suspect, its not so much those front line empirical scientists who are the problem, but a second buttressing layer of scientist-philosopher-cheerleader-atheist types, who ram science down all of our throats as the be-all and end-all. Me, I tend to side with that famous scientist and ex-Beatle John Lennon, who said "everything they told me as a kid has already been disproved by the same type of 'experts' who made them up in the first place." [quoted in interview with Playboy, so plainly I got this second-hand] As if to confirm Lennon's cynicism, Time writes of an upcoming epigenetics book by David Shenk: The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You've Been Told About Genetics, Talent and IQ is Wrong.
 
You know, the epigenome comes a lot closer to explaining Rom 5:12 than does any Darwinian explanation, since Adam’s sin is obviously an acquired characteristic:
 
"That is why, just as through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned..."
 
Furthermore, back to the present, Time reports Dr. Pembrey speculating: what if the environmental pressures and social changes of the industrial age had become so powerful that evolution had begun to demand that our genes respond faster? What if our DNA now had to react not over many generations and millions of years but, as Pembrey wrote, within “a few, or moderate number, of generations”?

Extrapolating from his statement, could it be that epigenetics in our stressful times sheds light on the outworking of 2 Tim 3:1-5?
 

"But know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up [with pride], lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power; and from these turn away."

We all know in our heart of hearts that these ugly traits are on display today as never before. Yes, I know, I know....such is human nature and people have always been that way. But it’s a matter of degree; the unrestrained expression of these traits is what's new. After all, Paul's contemporaries might easily have labeled his ‘prophesy’ a yawner: "People will be ugly, Paul? So what's new?” But they didn't say that. They knew what he meant.
 
In seeking to understand these ugly, seemingly accelerated traits, Alan Greenspan's book The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World, offers insight with regard to the barbarous slaughter that began in 1914. He writes: "World War I was more devastating to civility and civilization than the physically far more destructive World War II: the earlier conflict destroyed an idea. I cannot erase the thought of those pre-World War I years, when the future of mankind appeared unencumbered and without limit. Today our outlook is starkly different from a century ago but perhaps a bit more consonant with reality. Will terror, global warming, or resurgent populism do to the current era of life-advancing globalization what World War I did to the previous one?"

Could the barbarism unleashed in 1914, augmented by ever-increasing stressors of modern life, be triggering harmful genetic changes, as Dr Pembrey suggests can occur? The more one ponders the astounding woes that afflict persons today, the more plausible the idea sounds.

 

*************************

Tom Irregardless and Me             No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

The 1914 Collection

Alan Greenspan ran the U.S. Federal Reserve for 20 years. Now that he's up in his eighties, he's collecting his gleanings from history. We need old people to do that; otherwise the current generation, always at risk to imagine prior generations copies of themselves in all respects, only without ipods, attempt to rewrite history in their own image. But old birds like Alan won't let them. His generation reminds us that morality, values, attitudes have markedly changed over the decades. Of course, values have changed throughout time, but the onslaught of a pop-obsessed media, coupled with ever increasing isolation from stabilizing prior generations, speeds up that change. Values that have endured for generations are trashed overnight.

Mr. Greenspan’s 2007 book is The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World. In it, one finds yet another reference to that pivotal year, 1914. Optimism prevailed before and pessimism after. It's an idea that pops up repeatedly in historical writings:
 

Writes Greenspan: "By all contemporaneous accounts, the world prior to 1914 seemed to be moving irreversibly toward higher levels of civility and civilization; human society seemed perfectible. The nineteenth century had brought an end to the wretched slave trade. Dehumanizing violence seemed on the decline...The pace of global invention had advanced throughout the nineteenth century, bringing railroads, the telephone, the electric light, cinema, the motor car, and household conveniences too numerous to mention: medical science, improved nutrition, and the mass distribution of potable water had elevated life expectancy... The sense of the irreversibility of such progress was universal."
 

But...."World War I was more devastating to civility and civilization than the physically far more destructive World War II: the earlier conflict destroyed an idea. I cannot erase the thought of those pre-World War I years, when the future of mankind appeared unencumbered and without limit. Today our outlook is starkly different from a century ago but perhaps a bit more consonant with reality. Will terror, global warming, or resurgent populism do to the current era of life-advancing globalization what World War I did to the previous one? No one can be confident of the answer."  [quoted in the March 15, 2009 Watchtower]
 

1914 was a pivotal year. Clearly, Mr. Greenspan views it that way.
 

If you like to read, like to think, and are lacking a hobby, collecting 1914 statements is not a bad pastime. Keep your eyes open, and you'll come across a lot. If you want to cheat, you’ll start by raiding the Watchtower’s stash of quotes, for, it is fair to say, they collect them and have, over the years, amassed an impressive hoard. They do so because such statements dovetail so well with their understanding of Bible prophesy.
 

As early as 1876, Jehovah’s Witnesses began pointing to 1914 as a biblically significant year. The August 30, 1914 New York World newspaper, in its magazine section, ran the following story:
 

   “End of All Kingdoms in 1914”
 

“The terrific war outbreak in Europe has fulfilled an extraordinary prophecy….For a quarter of a century past, through preachers and through press, the ‘International Bible Students [Jehovah’s Witnesses], best known as ‘Millennial Dawners,’ have been proclaiming to the world that the Day of Wrath prophesied in the Bible would dawn in 1914. ‘Look out for 1914!’ has been the cry of the hundreds of traveling evangelists who, representing this strange creed [!], have gone up and down the country enunciating the doctrine that ‘the Kingdom of God is at hand.’”
 

For the most part, Jehovah's Witnesses thought that great war would escalate into the battle of Armageddon - must not Armageddon be concurrent with the "Kingdom of God at hand"? It didn't happen. [A failed end date!!] Yet, I hate to see them derided for it, because, clearly, they were on to something that everyone else missed.
 

Within a few years, they came to appreciate that the following verses had been fulfilled in that year:
 

So down the great dragon was hurled, the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth; he was hurled down to the earth, and his angels were hurled down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come to pass the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ, because the accuser of our brothers has been hurled down, who accuses them day and night before our God!…..On this account be glad, you heavens and you who reside in them! Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.   Rev 12: 9-12
 

Yes, it was the establishment of the Kingdom (Now have come to pass the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ....) but it was not yet time for the end of this system of things. That would come a little later, sort of like the interval between election day and inauguration day. In the meantime...."Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time." You don't think that harmonizes well with Alan Greenspan's 1914 observations? A sense of optimism before, a sense of pessimism after. A tipping point, almost as if the reflection of some greater supernatural event.
Here are a few other quotes (I'll number them) from the 1914 collection, starting with another mentioned in Greenspan's work:
 

1.)   "Those who have an adult's recollection and an adult's understanding of the world which preceded World War I look back upon it with a great nostalgia. There was a sense of security then which has never since existed."  Benjamin J. Anderson (1886-1949), Economics and the Public Welfare
 

2.)  We read "Historic events are often said to have 'changed everything.' In the case of the Great War [1914-1918] this is, for once, true. the war really did change everything: not just borders, not just governments and the fate of nations, but the way people have seen the world and themselves ever since. It became a kind of hole in time, leaving the postwar world permanently disconnected from everything that had come before."    A World Undone, by G J Meyer, (2006)
 

3.)  Everything would get better and better. This was the world I was born in. . . . Suddenly, unexpectedly, one morning in 1914 the whole thing came to an end.—British statesman Harold Macmillan, New York “Times,” November 23, 1980
 

4.)  Civilization entered on a cruel and perhaps terminal illness in 1914.”   Frank Peters, St. Louis “Post-Dispatch    January 27, 1980
 

5.)  In 1914 the world lost a coherence which it has not managed to recapture since. . . . This has been a time of extraordinary disorder and violence, both across national frontiers and within them. The Economist,” London, August 4, 1979
 

6.)   The whole world really blew up about World War I and we still don’t know why. . . . Utopia was in sight. There was peace and prosperity. Then everything blew up. We’ve been in a state of suspended animation ever since.    Dr. Walker Percy, “American Medical News,” November 21, 1977
 

7.)   Thoughts and pictures come to my mind, . . . thoughts from before the year 1914 when there was real peace, quiet and security on this earth—a time when we didn’t know fear. . . . Security and quiet have disappeared from the lives of men since 1914.    German statesman Konrad Adenauer, 1965
 

8.)   In 1914 the world, as it was known and accepted then, came to an end.”   James Cameron (the historian, not the movie-maker) 1959
 

9.)  Ever since 1914, everybody conscious of trends in the world has been deeply troubled by what has seemed like a fated and pre-determined march toward ever greater disaster. Many serious people have come to feel that nothing can be done to avert the plunge towards ruin. They see the human race, like the hero of a Greek tragedy, driven on by angry gods and no longer the master of fate.   Bertrand Russell, New York “Times Magazine,” September 27, 1953
 

10.)   More and more historians look back upon World War I as the great turning point of modern history, the catastrophic collapse which opened the way for others, perhaps the final one. Professor D. F. Fleming, Vanderbilt University:
 

Here is a list of American historians. Go through all their writings and find some more 1914 quotes. And why should you confine your search to American historians? Just because I'm in America doesn't mean you are. For that matter, why confine your search to historians? Are they the only people who think? However, you may have to confine your search to writers who are old, if not deceased. The modern generation produces only essays about i-pods, stock derivatives, and CSI.
 
Too, I don't want to hear any more carrying on about Jehovah's Witnesses being so focused on the end of this system of things, as if they're barking up the wrong tree. What does that verse in 2 Peter say?
 

For you know this first, that in the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires and saying: “Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep [in death], all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning. (2 Pet 3:3-4)
 

Details here and there have been off, but the Witnesses' broader view of historical trends and the direction in which they are heading have been spot-on, as testified to by all these 1914 quotes. It's the Bible's viewpoint, (as indicated here, and here, and here) after all, and Jehovah's Witnesses are, above all, Bible students.


 ***************************

Tom Irregardless and Me                    No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Advise and Consent and Sexual Orientation

Talk about politically incorrect!

Senator Anderson punches his gay ex-lover in the mouth. The poor fellow drops face-down in the gutter. Now...there's a lot of things that can happen to a guy when he's punched, but this guy goes in the gutter! Face down! The unmistakable symbolism: that's where he belongs!!*

That's how Otto Preminger treated homosexuality in his 1962 movie Advise and Consent. A former Academy Award winning director, Preminger took bows for his film. Today, he'd be crucified for it. When the movie was re-done for DVD a few years ago , the homosexual sub-plot was replaced with a Jewish one. (even though the original plot was based upon a true incident.)

 

Times have changed. It's anyone with an unkind word about homosexuality who belongs in the gutter today. The District Overseer can barely believe his own words as he observes: "nowadays, only homosexuals want to get married." Evidence, he maintains, that the world is "upside down."

It sure seems that way from any historical perspective.  In my lifetime, I've seen homosexuality go from reviled fringe to cutting-edge alternative. There once seemed nothing more unlikely than this verse becoming reality:

Therefore God, in keeping with the desires of their hearts, gave them up to uncleanness, that their bodies might be dishonored among them, even those who exchanged the truth of God for the lie and venerated and rendered sacred service to the creation rather than the One who created, who is blessed forever. Amen. That is why God gave them up to disgraceful sexual appetites, for both their females changed the natural use of themselves into one contrary to nature; and likewise even the males left the natural use of the female and became violently inflamed in their lust toward one another, males with males, working what is obscene and receiving in themselves the full recompense, which was due for their error.    Rom 1:24-27

It's an unflattering view of homosexuality, but I don't include it for that reason, rather, for it's implication that homosexuality would become commonplace. Nobody of my generation would ever have foreseen it. Seemingly, the going against what is "natural" was enough to rule it out. When you work with plumbing or electricity, you link the male end with the female end. Always. That's the way it's done. Nobody thinks it's cutting edge plumbing to solder two male ends together, or female. It doesn't happen. And it's always been that way with human sexuality. Doubtless, that's how we came to apply those terms to electricity and plumbing.

Preminger's portrayal plays mean-spirited today, yet it was right in sync with popular sentiment of that time - indeed,  of any time. Homosexuality used to be perverted. Now, however, it is edgy, and heterosexuality....well, a little unimaginative, if not downright dull. The very words straight (inflexible, efficient, but monotonous) vs gay (happy, live life to the full!) are rife with the implication. Tabloids breathlessly speculate about this or that star. Are they attracted to .....yawn, how boring....the opposite sex, OR are they enamored with.....cross your fingers, oh please, please, please....the SAME sex! Yes!! That's what I'm talkin about!!!

It's unbelievable!! How can this be the rage? How can it be mainstream? Yes, as a small fringe...that has always been, but how can it seriously rival "natural" sex attraction? Can they all really have been born that way?

Are any of them born that way? Freud used to say that sexuality was determined at a very early age based on interaction of the parents. He's shouted down today on that point, but is there reason to shout him down? Or is his theory, which implies abnormality, just not what people want to hear today?

Or are there yet other factors at work?

Otto Preminger pioneered in introducing taboo subjects to film: homosexuality in Advise and Consent, rape in Anatomy of a Murder, drug addiction in The Man With the Golden Arm. You can count upon films making abundant use of these juicy themes today, but in Preminger's time they were unheard of. Yet, from Advise and Consent (1962) on, every film treatment of homosexuality was more favorable than the one before. Today, there's no film stigma whatsoever about gays, as there was then. Quite the opposite. The gay character is cool, intriguing, hip, contrasting well with other dullards on the show.

I don't pretend to know how to weigh these 3 factors - genetics, Freud, media - or if there are yet other ones. The endorsement of the psychiatric profession, for example. Excess hormones, for another, readily found in modern food and water supplies. Not that this would cause homosexuality, I don't imagine. But it may push sexuality to be much more fluid, more susceptible to other influences. Pure guesswork on my part. I don't really know. But I'll tell you one thing. Never would my generation have anticipated that sexual identity would be so pliable as it has proved to be. That the Bible forecasts this, against all then-common wisdom, is a major point in its favor.

 

...............................

[EDIT    Feb 21, 2010] The newly emerging field of epigenetics also suggests some possibilities.

**************************

Tom Irregardless and Me                 No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

1874, 1914, 1975, and ....um....1925, and what's this about 1994?

Tobias from the other side of the globe penned a long and thoughtful post on religion. I commented about something or other, and he responded with:

Personally, I don't believe the Jehovah's Witnesses. I'm more inclined toward the Protestant (maybe Presbyterian) view, but that's just my belief.

Russell did make several mistakes, after all, declaring 1874 as the Second Coming of Christ and World War I in 1914 as Armageddon. He was wrong on both counts.

Like I said, it all eventually comes down to your interpretation of the Bible.

..........................................

Dear Tobias from the Other Side of the Globe:

It may seem odd to you, but I don't regard the mistakes you mentioned as very serious wrongs. Embarrassing, yes. But not so serious as to disqualify Russell as a genuine Christian, or the movement he founded. After all, we all know that humans are imperfect. And we all know (I think) that Christians are instructed by our Lord to "keep on the watch" concerning his return. For example:

Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man............Luke 21:36


Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.
................Matt 24:42

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour...........Matt 25:13

Okay, okay, so we may not know the day and the hour. But to nail the year has proven an irresistible temptation. Not just for us, but for many - even the esteemed Sir Isaac Newton, still thought by many to be the greatest scientist who ever lived. He foretold all would end in 2060, a date which the discerning reader will note, lies yet before us.

Combine Jesus' words with human imperfection, and it is not so hard to understand that a genuine Christian might jump the gun on occasion. Their mistake is not that of issuing a prophesy, which would make them (gulp) false prophets. Instead, they misinterpret an existing prophesy. A different thing altogether, not unlike misreading a bus schedule. A perfect person will not misread a bus schedule. An imperfect one sometimes will.

Frankly, you could even turn it around and count the failed dates as a plus. If we really are to "keep on the watch," as Jesus said, what are we to say about a group who never even comes close to anticipating a time for Jesus' return - indeed, who never even thinks of it? Aren't they sleeping on the job? After all, the guy high up on the mast, peering into the mist for all he is worth, ready to sound the alarm at the approach of an enemy ship - well, he may sound off prematurely once or twice. The stakes are high. He wants to not let his shipmates down. He's been charged by the captain to keep a sharp eye on things.

But the guy who is sound asleep up there will never issue a false alarm. He also won't issue a true alarm. When the bow of the approaching ship smashes through the hull and pinches his toes....that's when he'll sound the alarm. Who's the better watchman?

Or the racer on the blocks who jumps the gun. It's a great nuisance. They have to restart the race. But nobody holds it against him - so long as it's occasional. They realize it's a consequence of an imperfect person "keeping on the watch." Now, there are probably some racers who never jump the gun. But they never win any races, either.

No, a failed "Armageddon date is not such a bad thing. Nor has it been especially common. In my lifetime, it's happened only once, in 1975. So just how many times have Jehovah's Witnesses foretold the end of this system of things, anyhow? Well, there is the aforementioned 1975, which I've written about here.

And there are the dates 1874 and 1914, which Tobias mentioned, and which I've written of here.

And there may be one or two right around 1914. They really were pretty sure they were going to heaven that year. So, like when you drive in a nail, and it doesn't go in straight, and in frustration you hit all around the spot.....um...maybe it was something like that. Or maybe not. History is murky, and there are a lot of grousers who gleefully try to inflate the figure, hoping to embarrass me, as if JWs predicted the end every other week, so some of these enddates may come just out of their own wishful thinking. I'm not sure.

Oh....and I think there was something in 1925. Not the big deal that was 1914 or 1975, but something. How widespread it was I'm not sure. I'll bet, though, that since 1925 differs from 1975 by fifty years, the 1925 date has something to do with the Jubilee system, in which every 50th year had significance. Aspects of that system have long been thought to be prophetic.

And sometimes on the internet, from these soreheads who try to pump the numbers, one comes across 1994. I've no idea where that comes from. I was very active in the faith throughout that time, and I never heard a thing about it. It was certainly never in print. I think it's the soreheads and number-puffers at work.

All the same, we're not doing it any more, setting dates. We've gotten burned too many times. Besides, we've sailed past all the markers, as I recall one speaker saying. Besides, we don't have to do dates; the Aztecs have 2012 as a end of the world date! This one's not even biblical, so it's more palatable for the new-agers, astrologers, modern witches, and the like. And don't forget 2060, from the Father of Science. Didn't he stand on the shoulders of giants to figure out that one?

..............................

More on 1914 here.

More on 1975 here.

How to Predict the End of the World (EOW) here.

[EDIT Oct 1, 2020....Additional material here from Dr.George D. Chryssides, which I came across recently, and, might as well say it, is more scholarly in tone than my own stuff.] 

False Prophets here.

***************************

Tom Irregardless and Me                   No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 

 

 

 

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

The League of Nations and Jehovah's Witnesses

After the first World War, weary nations hoped world war would never ever happen again, though it did 20 years later. They proposed a League of Nations -  an international forum - that would hash out problems before they reached the boilover point. They even included Germany. Alas, the same Treaty of Versailles that proposed the League also decreed that Germany pay the full cost of the war just ended. Of course, Germany couldn't, and the resulting economic strain created chaos (compounded by the Great Depression) from which Hitler emerged, appealing to national pride and a sense of victimization. World War II started, and the League of Nations collapsed.

After the second World War, the League was resurrected in principle, and rechristened the United Nations. Jehovah's Witnesses have pointed to it as the beast of Rev 17:8 -

The wild beast that you saw was, but is not, and yet is about to ascend out of the abyss, and it is to go off into destruction.

It "was," prior to World War II. It "is not," during that war, and it "ascends out of the abyss" (as the U.N.) after that war. It is also described as (Revelation 13:14-15) the "image of the beast," since it reflects the qualities of its component nations. Since the most prominent of these component creates it, they are said to have "breathed life" into it. Beasts are frequently used in the Bible as symbols of human governments, likely for the way they rip and tear and devour each other, and even their own peoples.

Detailed explanations of these verses, and indeed of all of Revelation, are found in the book Revelation - It's Grand Climax at Hand, available from Jehovah's Witnesses. I've previously referred to it here and probably some other places as well.

Now, offhand, a League of Nations - an international forum for peace and security - seems like a good idea. Let nations talk it out, not fight it out, and so forth. And no one has any gripe at all with the humanitarian good such agency has accomplished. The organization is, however, the exact opposite of what the Bible proposes. For the Bible advocates world government by God - God's Kingdom - which is to replace human rulership. It is described here, as God's answer after a long torrent of failed human efforts:

And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.    Dan 2:44

This is the same government of the "Lord's prayer," named here in Matt 6: 9-10   (NIV):

Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.

People repeat this prayer, usually by rote, and it becomes like the Pledge of Allegiance. They have no idea what it means.

The League of Nations, noble though the idea sounds, advocates world government by man, and this puts it at odds with the Bible. President Woodrow Wilson lead in birthing the new organization. Ironically, he couldn't talk the U. S. Congress into joining. Europe was a long ways away. The oceans had always afforded good isolation, and hopefully, with WWI in the past, they would continue to do so. Let Europe attend to their own squabbling.

The churches, whom you might think would side with world government by God, fell all over themselves to embrace world government by man. The National Council of the Churches of Christ in America lost no time declaring "such a League is not a mere political expedient; it is rather the political expression of the Kingdom of God on earth...." If Congress didn't want to sign up, it wasn't for the churches' lack of effort; 14,450 leading clergymen signed a petition urging the Senate to get onboard with the rest of the League supporters. The Pope, too, pleaded for the League’s adoption. All this in 1919.

Seemingly, the only ones not buying into the hoopla were Jehovah’s Witnesses, then known as the International Bible Students. That same year - 1919 - addressing a convention in Cedar Point, Ohio, J. F. Rutherford, Watch Tower Society president asserted that "the Lord’s displeasure is certain to be visited upon the League . . . because the clergy—Catholic and Protestant—claiming to be God’s representatives, have abandoned his plan and endorsed the League of Nations, hailing it as a political expression of Christ’s kingdom on earth.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses would not abandon “his plan,” even if all the rest of Christendom did. Three years later, discerning that the actual Christ’s kingdom had been established in heaven in 1914, (written about here and here) Rutherford urged conventioneers (it’s an oft-reported speech that all Jehovah’s Witnesses have heard about) to “advertise, advertise, advertise the king and his kingdom” - which is what Witnesses have done ever since.

Thus, establishment of the League of Nations represents a fork in the road. The churches, almost without exception, publicly embraced world government by man. At the same time, Jehovah’s organization publicly took the opposite path, advocating world government by God, in acknowledgement that God’s Kingdom does not come through any consensus of manmade governments. This explains Jehovah's Witnesses' neutrality toward this world’s governments. The churches, meanwhile, are ever convinced that God uses whatever national government they live under, to accomplish his aims. They are forever meddling in political affairs, trying to sway governments to write their own views into law. The actual Kingdom of God means little to them. Their goal is to put a smiley face on existing human governments.

Recommending world government by man or world government by God - this was among the chief differences between the churches and Jehovah's Witnesses back then. It is also so today.

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Tom Irregardless and Me             No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Nelson Barbour and the Rochester Connection

It’s obvious to any reasonably astute spiritual person that Rochester, my hometown, is nowhere mentioned in scripture. It’s equally plain that such neglect is grossly unjust. Not only unjust, but arbitrary. After all, if I lived just 90 miles east, in Syracuse, I would at least have minor (yet satisfying) scriptural mention. I think it was Tom Wheatandweeds concluding a District Convention held in that city a few years back, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Auditorium, who pointed out that all in attendance had fulfilled a scriptural pattern. He referred to Acts 28:12, the clown, which reads:  “And putting into port at Syracuse we remained three days… " And what if you lived in Rome, NY, 30 miles to the northeast. Well, then you’d have scriptural mention all the time. But Rochester….not even once.

Perhaps, though, things are different when we consider the modern-day history of Jehovah’s people - you know, the one that got underway in the late 1800’s, the one where Charles Taze Russell was a prominent figure. What finds we when we do a search of that period?

Whoa!! Right off the bat we hit a home run! In the very early days of Jehovah’s modern-day Witnesses, Russell came across a fellow searcher of scripture in Rochester by the name of Nelson H Barbour. The latter published a journal called The Herald of the Morning which advanced some doctrinal points that Russell, too, had discerned. The two teamed up and combined their Bible study groups, Barbour’s being the larger of the two. They became coeditors of the Herald. Russell infused cash into it, as it was in danger of going belly-up. They published a book together (in 1877): Three Worlds, and the Harvest of this World.

Ah….but the marriage didn’t last. Barbour began veering away with some ideas Russell didn’t care for, most notably denying the ransom value of Christ’s death, saying that [Russell’s words] “Christ’s death was no more a settlement of the penalty of man’s sins than would the sticking of a pin through the body of a fly and causing it suffering and death be considered by an earthly parent as a just settlement for misdemeanor in his child.” The two squabbled back and forth in the Herald magazine for awhile - each penning separate articles - and then Russell broke off partnership and started a journal of his own: Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, known today as the Watchtower. The Watchtower grew to its present circulation of 37 million. The Herald of the Morning disappeared.

Who was this fellow Barbour? I don’t know if I’d be especially curious, were it not for his Rochester connection. But I spent some time in the library archives [unnecessary, it turned out, since most of the information is also at Wikapedia] and uncovered some basics about him. He was a serious student of the Bible. Born in 1824  and raised among Presbyterians [as I was], he was a little too inquisitive for them and broke off at age 19 to do independent study and preaching. He published some tracts and books before he met Russell, and he founded The Church of the Strangers afterward. A pork chop preacher! Joe Hart might have called him, but such wouldn’t be fair. Unlike storefront preachers today, who, Joe suspected, preached just so as to supply themselves with pork chops, Barbour gives every appearance of being legit. Another Barbour, Clarence A Barbour, was a local Presbyterian preacher at the time, and he gets more contemporary press than does Nelson. Was Nelson the black sheep of the family?  And an Elizabeth Barbour - apparently Nelson’s wife - is listed in the records of the Central Presbyterian Church (3/31/1873) as “suspended, erased & excommunicated” [!] Did she stray from Presbyterianism and join Nelson in his heresy? She died in 1901. Nelson died in 1905.

There were a lot of guys like Nelson in those days. In fact, Russell was like him. As the end of the Gentile times approached, there were many in the decades leading up to 1914 who began searching the Scriptures - roving about, as Daniel phrases it. They focused on the fulfillment of prophesies - many of them found in the book of Daniel. You could say they were “keeping on the watch“ as to the Lord’s return. Might they be the “you” of verse 12?

10 Concerning this very salvation a diligent inquiry and a careful search were made by the prophets who prophesied about the undeserved kindness meant for you. 11 They kept on investigating what particular season or what sort of [season] the spirit in them was indicating concerning Christ when it was bearing witness beforehand about the sufferings for Christ and about the glories to follow these. 12 It was revealed to them that, not to themselves, but to you, they were ministering the things that have now been announced to you through those who have declared the good news to you with holy spirit sent forth from heaven. Into these very things angels are desiring to peer.       1 Pet 1:10-12

At any rate, Daniel relates what was told him about prophesies he recorded:

And as for you, O Daniel, make secret the words and seal up the book, until the time of [the] end. Many will rove about, and the [true] knowledge will become abundant.    Dan 12:1

You couldn’t count on the Presbyterians or any mainline church to do any such “roving.” They’d long since grown fat and happy with well-paid clergymen who were content to confer God’s blessing on whatever human government they lived under. No, it would be breakaway students - folks like Barbour - and Russell.

In the early twentieth century, Charles Taze Russell enjoyed particular success. The Bible study group he formed has grown into Jehovah’s Witnesses of today. Is it because he was smarter than the rest of them? Or more dedicated? Started with more money? Was more humble?  Was more blessed?  He would, I think, have emphasized the latter factor. At any rate, the movement he chaired became exceedingly active. Russell himself saw his weekly sermons published in 4000 newspapers. A publication called The Continent said of him: “His writings are said to have greater newspaper circulation every week than those of any other living man; a greater, doubtless, than the combined circulation of the writings of all the priests and preachers in North America; greater even than the work of Arthur Brisbane, Norman Hapgood, George Horace Lorimer, Dr. Frank Crane, Frederick Haskins, and a dozen other of the best known editors and syndicate writers put together.”

In what would have made Sam Harris proud, were he willing to give credit to a “deist,” -  which he is not - Russell and associates “called a spade a spade”with regard to the God-dishonoring teachings of the churches. So much so that when the eight principle officers of them was railroaded off to jail in 1918 (convicted under wartime charges of sedition - a conviction reversed nine months later, the original trial having been shown to contain 125 errors) the churches all high-fived each other.   Ray H Abrams writes in his book Preachers Present Arms, (published in 1933)  “An analysis of the whole case leads to the conclusion that the churches and the clergy were originally behind the movement to stamp out the Russellites. . . .
“When the news of the twenty-year sentences reached the editors of the religious press, practically every one of these publications, great and small, rejoiced over the event. I have been unable to discover any words of sympathy in any of the orthodox religious journals. ‘There can be no question,’ concluded Upton Sinclair, that ‘the persecution . . . sprang in part from the fact that they had won the hatred of “orthodox” religious bodies.’ What the combined efforts of the churches had failed to do the government now seemed to have succeeded in accomplishing for them—the crushing of these ‘prophets of Baal’ forever.”

Upon release from prison -their convictions overturned - the eight officers of the Watchtower were not a bit abashed. They resumed with full vigor their preaching campaign, and, in fact, intensified it. We see the result as the Christian congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses today. Of course, we view the movement as not brand new, but a restoration of first century Christianity, following a foretold period of “sleep:”

Another illustration he set before them, saying: “The kingdom of the heavens has become like a man that sowed fine seed in his field. While men were sleeping, his enemy came and oversowed weeds in among the wheat, and left. When the blade sprouted and produced fruit, then the weeds appeared also. So the slaves of the householder came up and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow fine seed in your field? How, then, does it come to have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy, a man, did this.’ They said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go out and collect them?’ He said, ‘No; that by no chance, while collecting the weeds, you uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and in the harvest season I will tell the reapers, First collect the weeds and bind them in bundles to burn them up, then go to gathering the wheat into my storehouse.’”  Matt 13:24-30

But all that’s mere background for the post at hand. We’re dealing here with the backwater eddy that was Nelson H. Barbour. Rochester Central Library archives list his Church of the Strangers at the address 86 Williams Street* in Rochester.

No way!!! That’s not 100 yards from the old Irondequoit Kingdom Hall! (which is now a dentist’s office) I used to live in that Hall, in a downstairs apartment, when I pioneered back in the 70’s. Let me tell you, this is weird. It almost makes me feel like a bad Elisha, having caught the cloak of a bad Elijah. Of course, he missed by 100 yards, but that is what a bad Elijah would do. And I hate to think of the implications for this blog!

Sheesh! I’m almost sorry I asked.

*It is possible that the Williams St of today, at the very edge of Rochester City limits, is not the same Williams St. of 100 years ago. But I’ll leave matters as they are. How often does a guy get to end a sentence with three exclamation marks?

 


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The Rochester Union and Advertiser for October 5, 1895, page 12 offers the following article on Nelson Barbour:

The 57th installment of the Union’s Series of Saturday articles on Rochester pastors is devoted to the Rev Nelson H Barbour, pastor the Church of the Strangers, located on Williams St.


"Nelson H. Barbour was born at Toupsville, three miles from Auburn, N. Y., in 1824. At an early age the family moved to Cohocton, Stueben County, N. Y. From the age of 15 to 18, he attended school at Temple Hill Academy, Genseco, New York; at which place he united with the Methodist Episcopal Church, and began a preparation for the ministry under elder Ferris. Having been brought up among Presbyterians, however, and having an investigating turn of mind, instead of quietly learning Methodist theology he troubled his teacher with questions of election, universal salvation, and many other subjects, until it was politely hinted that he was more likely to succeed in life as a farmer than as a clergyman. But his convictions were strong that he must preach the gospel even if he could not work in any theological harness. And at 19, he began his life work as an independent preacher. Since which, all that is worth reporting in his life is inseparable from his theological growth. He could not believe in an all wise and loving Father, permitting the fall; then leaving man's eternal destiny to a hap-hazard scramble between a luke-warm Church and a zealous devil. On the contrary he believed the fall was permitted for a wise purpose; and that God has a definite plan for man, in which nothing is left to chance or ignorance.
"Mr. Barbour believes that what he denominated the present babel of confusion in the churches is the result of false teaching and the literal interpretation of the parables.
"The Church of the Strangers was organized in 1879. Mr. Barbour has preached in England, in several Australian colonies, in Canada, and many states of the Union. For the past twenty-two years he has published the Herald of the Morning in this city; claiming that in his 'call' to preach, he confered [sic] not with flesh and blood. Nor was he called to convert the world; but independent of creed, to search for the truth 'as it is in Jesus,' the 'second man Adam,' believing that the restored faith is a precurser [sic] of the millenium [sic] and 'Times of restitution of all things.'"

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Tom Irregardless and Me          No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

The Fight to Stamp Out HBB

Years ago I knew a fellow whose dealings would, from time to time, invite scrutiny from the state tax authorities. Whether those dealings were legal or not, I had no idea, but they certainly were slick. At any rate, this was long before the days of computers, and I no longer recall the specifics.

What I do recall was how he dealt with challenges from the tax people. He’d write several letters to them, each one contradicting the other. ‘Your goal is to get them to pull the file,’ he told me. ‘Once they pull it, they’ll lose it.’ He swore by this system.

It’s called muddying the waters. Politicians do it a lot. It accounts for much of negative campaigning. Say there is something about your position that is unpalatable, or even stinks to high heaven. Rather than explain it….perhaps the only realistic explanation is that you are a greedy and conniving so-and-so…..it’s better to divert attention from it. So you say nasty things about your opponent, or grandiose things that, while true, have nothing to do with the issue at hand, though they are phrased so that their irrelevance is not immediately obvious. Eventually the average citizen, who has much on his plate and is not obsessed with your issue in the first place, will throw up his hands and say ‘oh, the hell with it! They’re all liars, anyway.’ Once they‘ve done that, you can do whatever you want, reasonably free from scrutiny.

Does muddying the waters also account for HBB? Holy Book Belief (7th comment),says Dave from the Freethinker blog, is the phenomenon that other people have their own holy books…..it’s not just the Bible….which they look to as their authority. Therefore the whole concept of religion must be bogus.

Does it really work that way? To demolish a position, does it suffice merely to point to some who have concluded otherwise? Would that all life were so simple. You can’t get two people to agree on politics, either, or economics, government or philosophy.  Should everyone give up on these topics, then, and conclude they’re all nonsense? Or are we just attempting to rationalize being intellectually lazy (or disinterested)?

Look, ‘disinterested’ is one thing. But let’s not try to couch it as though it were a clinical syndrome. Dave might have gone further. He might have pointed out that, within each holy book, there are sects and divisions. So? All of life is like that. It the subject interests you, you search it through. If it doesn't, you don’t. Time was when the plethora of religions and beliefs would prompt searching, rather than giving up. Among our people, you constantly run across those who say they searched long and hard before finally finding a home here. One of our publications is entitled Mankind’s Search for God. So what are we to make of the fact that others, too, say they have searched, and they have arrived somewhere else as their truth?

I don’t know why we have to make anything out of it. Let God sort it out. If we think that Jehovah’s Witnesses have found the way of truth, then we act in harmony with it. I don’t lose my cookies should I find that others have concluded differently. People don’t agree on anything. Why should it be different when it comes to religion? Different faiths have characteristics appealing to different personalities, perhaps. Often, it’s just a matter of convenience, espousing the path one was born into.

The real issue is, or should be, the amount of disruption a given faith exacts upon society. If everybody propagated their ideas as Jehovah’s Witnesses do theirs, this would be a very peaceful world. Sure, their visits might be viewed as pesky, yet if you disagree with them, they go away. Is that not less obtrusive than what most religions (or atheists) try to do: use the political process to write one’s views into law so that people are forced into them? Some groups don’t stop there: they even resort to violent means. But our weapons are words only. To those who don’t know what they believe, who lack confidence in their beliefs, or who don’t want to believe anything (but don’t quite care to admit it), our visits might seem a bit awkward. But to anyone who knows where they stand and knows how to live and let live, they are no big deal, even when they don’t agree with us.

Anyone familiar with Jehovah’s Witnesses knows that, for many decades, we have anticipated a time when the world’s governments would turn upon religion, based upon our interpretation of this verse:

And the ten horns that you saw, and the wild beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her devastated and naked, and will eat up her fleshy parts and will completely burn her with fire. For God put [it] into their hearts to carry out his thought, even to carry out [their] one thought by giving their kingdom to the wild beast, until the words of God will have been accomplished.       Rev 17:16-17

From time to time, there is speculation as to just what will transpire so as to trigger these dramatic events. Religion has been so disruptive for so long to world peace and unity that plausible theories are never lacking. But my bet is that this generation’s new militant atheists will have something to do with it.

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Tom Irregardless and Me           No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)